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'True Balance app is aimed towards replacing the earlier inconvenient way of checking current mobile balance'- Charlie Lee, CEO & Co- Founder, True Balance

"True Balance has managed to garner extreme success in a short span of time, the expertise and years of experience in the industry and made it possible to make True Balance one of the fastest growing utility (balance checking) services, which also can easily expand to mobile financial services. I feel that one needs to be in the right place at the right time which we have been able to achieve so far, Position is everything to grow a successful business and True Balance has that position." - Charlie Lee, CEO & Co- Founder, True Balance



Charlie Lee, CEO & Co- Founder, True Balance

ST: Please tell us more about your start-up.

Charlie Lee:  True Balance is a prepaid mobile balance manager application for android users, developed and maintained by Balance Hero. With an ambitious vision of transforming the prepaid mobile management landscape, True Balance, a free of charge mobile app, provides balance check, call log; data pack assessment, and recharge service for prepaid accounts on Android smart phones. The mobile application also provides real-time information on best plans and offers from telecom operators, and helps users earn and recharge their prepaid mobile accounts. Recently we also launched advertising and recharging features on our platform. The newly added recharging feature will enable users to recharge data at the click of a button which will be available on the alarm screen of the app.

Our app is aimed towards replacing the earlier inconvenient way of checking current mobile balance. The app passed the 10 million download mark in July 2016 in just 19 months into launch and has now clocked over  30 million downloads.

True Balance is currently ranking No. 1 in Lifestyle category & was No. 14 in Top Apps at Google Play India.

ST: What was your idea/inspiration behind starting up a new venture in Mobile App market?

Charlie Lee:  India is the second biggest market for smartphone users in the world and with 220mn users it has even surpassed the US market in terms of active unique smartphone users. This data speaks volumes for the scale of the Indian market provides for any player in the mobile-connected ecosystem.

Keeping the potential of smartphone penetration in developing countries in mind, we thought India was the ideal choice for us to launch our balance check app business. A growing user base, increasing number of mobile internet users and favorable government policies have also helped in making India’s business operating environment conducive for start-ups. Our main aim behind launching True Balance was to empower Indian users with an option to save money and solving key problems of smartphones users across India.



ST: What are business opportunities in Mobile App market segment in India?

Charlie Lee:  India is now the fourth largest mobile app economy, owing to the rapid increase in the number of Indians owning smartphones. Along with the increase in these numbers, the amount of time Indians spend on applications and smartphones is also increasing. India in particular stand out for its staggering growth on engagement on apps.

Gaming still continues to be the biggest driver of downloads and revenue followed by video streaming which has also seen a sharp growth in revenue.  App publisher revenue has also recorded an impressive year on year growth.

India’s total app download figure has increased substantially over the years and is expected to amount to 20.1 billion by 2020. With app adoption growing rapidly in emerging markets like India and Indonesia which have potential for further gains.

ST: How has been your entrepreneurship journey so far?

Charlie Lee:  In 2006, I quit Real Networks and started Access Mobile, a business built on my experience in creating successful Mobile VAS offerings. Some of my colleagues from Wider then joined the firm with me. Access Mobile, headquartered in Seoul, has been providing apps – Magic SMS, Picture SMS, SMARTEXT and other VAS offerings to telecom players in India (Idea, Tata, Aircel, and Vodafone), Philippines and Indonesia. We have our own offices in five countries, including China, and we operate with local partners in Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Middle-East.

While it was a successful business and is in existence even now, the formal rise of smartphones started in 2008-09, and the mobile ecosystem changed completely. We tried out many new ideas and experimented with them within Access Mobile, but in 2014, we decided to launch a very different product called True Balance under a brand new legal entity called Balance Hero. I am still a shareholder in Access Mobile, but am running Balance Hero as full-time CEO.

To our credit, True Balance has managed to garner extreme success in a short span of time, the expertise and years of experience in the industry and made it possible to make True Balance one of the fastest growing utility (balance checking) services, which also can easily expand to mobile financial services. I feel that one needs to be in the right place at the right time which we have been able to achieve so far, Position is everything to grow a successful business and True Balance has that position.





ST: What challenges do you face in your day to day professional life, if any?

Charlie Lee:  I have been visiting or spending a significant amount of time every year in India since 2002 and it’s like my second home now. Frankly speaking, India is an open market when compared with a lot of other Asian countries. Even when I was selling Mobile VAS offerings, the Telecom Service Providers were very professional in their dealings.

Having said that, given the size of the country and with each telco operating almost independently within each circle, it took a lot of time to coordinate with every circle making payment collections and so on. It has been a challenge to speed up development in the ever changing Indian market .More importantly; our focus is to satisfy our users by making user friendly, simplified low network & handset environment.

ST: How big is your team? Are you planning to hire more?

Charlie Lee:  Currently we have a mixed culture with a balanced 40 Koreans and 40 Indians working closely in our Gurgaon office. We have witnessed tremendous growth in our short stint; our target is to double by end of this year

ST:  What are your future plans?

Charlie Lee:  We just introduced Ads and recharge model as a part of our business model t monetize our platform and have received tremendous response so far. Our aim is to increase user convenience as much as we can and the latest additions will help improve the app for users in India to effectively and easily recharge and manage their data usage. We are also planning to open our services to postpaid users in India later this year. Apart from this we are also looking at expanding operations in other markets like Indonesia.

Interviewed by Startup Terminal Bureau


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